All posts filed under: Work

A Beautiful Harvest

I caught up with Louie the peach farmer last week and we talked about the troubling water situation in California. Louie also grows almonds, a mainstay in our state, but also one of our most water-consuming crops. Louie is no stranger to this reality, but it’s tough to transition away from a crop you’ve been working with your whole life. Always looking to the bright side, Louie shared some good news — he was able to buy the water allotment from one of his neighbors who doesn’t use his acreage for agriculture. With the gift of his gallons, Louie was able to have a bountiful fruit harvest. Our conversation hopped to the farm laborers who made it all happen. Louie’s operation is smaller than the farms that typically make the news. He is not the guy getting interviewed by reporters on immigration and farm labor management. Some folks on his crew have been with him for decades and Louie pays them an above market wage. According to Louie, giving people dignity is just good business. …

These Legumes Offer a Leg Up

In 1989, Jossy Eyre was volunteering at a daytime women’s shelter in Denver as part of her master’s degree in social work. There she met dozens of jobless women with little sense of where they were going or what came next. After a period of relative safety and stability at the shelter, the women simply stopped showing up. Jossy worked at the shelter for the entire academic year, and it didn’t take long for familiar faces to reappear. Often, the women had gotten jobs during their time away, but struggled to keep them. Jossy’s talks with them revealed an interconnected web of social and financial challenges that required a more sustainable solution. So she did what all accidental social entrepreneurs do – she asked herself what she knew how to do, and how she could use her skills to create opportunities for others. 500 Bucks and a Vision Jossy knew how to make soup. So she invested $500 of her own money and put two women to work making single pot mixes – 10 Bean, …

Vote With Your Feet to End Youth Homelessness

Sam Harper was thrust into the life of a social entrepreneur early. “I was 18, and my buddy asked me to join a class project,” he recalls. A student at St. John’s University in Minnesota, Sam said yes to an audacious plan – selling warm knit beanies with a give-back model that would provide a free beanie for every child suffering from cancer in the United States. It was a new business model at the time that took off after a few short years, inspiring Sam to search for his own socially conscious business concept as college came to a close. The next opportunity popped up quickly. “One of my friends had this idea for a sock company,” Sam says. “He discovered that socks were the most requested, but least donated item at homeless shelters across America.” The friend was Michael Mader, another Minneapolis-based social entrepreneur searching for a way to help the local homeless community. So in 2016, Sam and Michael joined forces to launch Hippy Feet, a one-for-one social enterprise that sold warm, fuzzy …

It’s a Beautiful Day for Refugees

Where does most granola begin? Probably in a factory, or maybe a sticky bowl at home during an oatmeal cookie project gone wrong. At Beautiful Day, a nonprofit gourmet granola powerhouse in Rhode Island, the answer may surprise you – a classroom. In 2008, Keith Cooper was an educator struggling to meet the learning needs of his refugee students. The decontextualized atmosphere of the western classroom – desks and chairs arranged in neat rows – wasn’t conducive to learning for kids who had just arrived from camps. Since most people learn by doing, Keith decided that one of his personal hobbies might be a perfect hands-on project. So he got together with his friend Geoff Gordon and started teaching his students how to make granola. English improved. Morale improved. Students found something that bound them together and gave them purpose – and Keith saw a chance to make it all sustainable. Honoring Work & Roots Fast-forward a dozen years, and Beautiful Day is a thriving nonprofit with a mission “to help refugees, especially youth and the most …

New to Food

If you think about it, none of us is “new to food.” Food is something each of us has experienced and interacted with since our first days. However, the growing complexity and commercialization of food in recent decades has distanced us so much from this thing so elemental to our existence, that we sometimes feel confused or like we’re new here. Despite knowing a great deal about food, I too often wander the supermarket aisles, assaulted by trends and market forces, wondering if I should buy this or that. Despite a growing collective renaissance we’re having about food and keeping what we consume as close to the earth as possible, food is still something we largely obtain through corporate channels. Having grown up with a food scientist father in a factory environment, and being an experienced food industry professional myself, I would argue that what we now call food isn’t really food. Since we’ve come down on “big food,” another goliath industry has emerged comprised of “natural, non-GMO, dairy- and gluten-free, small batch, hand-crafted, functional, …